‘Merry Christmas': What to Say When Someone Tells You Merry Christmas

By Shanea Patterson, updated on March 7, 2023

What does it mean when someone says ‘Merry Christmas’? Where does this phrase come from?

‘Merry Christmas’ is an expression of sentiment offering well wishes for the holiday season.

It means that you hope someone has a happy holiday or enjoys their Christmas vacation. It might mean that you hope someone gets the gifts they wanted and gets to enjoy the holiday with their family.

What Does ‘Merry Christmas’ Mean?

‘Merry Christmas’ is an expression of sentiment people use to wish someone a happy holiday or a joyous holiday season.

Essentially, it’s what people who celebrate Christmas say to each other during that time of year, December.

This expression is tied to the Christmas holiday, which most Christians use to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (the son of God in some Christianity).

Some churches celebrate with Christmas programs and events that celebrate the birth of Christ.

However, the celebration of Christmas didn’t start in Rome until about 336. And it didn’t become a major Christian festival until about the ninth century.

The origins of Christmas stem from both the pagan and Roman cultures.

Where Does ‘Merry Christmas’ Come From?

The phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ comes from a 16th-century letter written by a bishop to England’s Chief Minister.

In the letter, the bishop asked God to bless the politician with a “Merry Christmas.”

The song “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is also from the same time period.

However, it wasn’t until Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol that the phrase became more widely known. It was published in 1543, and at one point in the book, Scrooge’s nephew exclaims, “A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!”

This was around the same time that Christmas cards emerged with the phrase “Merry Christmas” on them.

The English carol, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” was also introduced in the 1500s.

Even though we say Merry Christmas in the United States, in other places around the world, people might say ‘Happy Christmas,’ such as in England, where ‘merry’ was associated with the rowdy lower class.

Examples of ‘Merry Christmas’ In Sentences 

How would you use ‘Merry Christmas’ in a sentence? Let’s look at some examples:

  • “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal!” is probably one of the most famous lines from the movie Home Alone.
  • I didn’t get to see my best friend before she left for Christmas vacation. I wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas.
  • I never wish anyone a Merry Christmas because I don’t celebrate the holiday. I’m Jewish, so our beliefs are different.
  • Did you wish your father a Merry Christmas yet? If you haven’t called him already, it’s time to do it now before you forget.
  • No one ever wishes my neighbor, Maria, a Merry Christmas. So, I brought her a pie and sat with her for a while because she has no family.
  • Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all have a great holiday vacation. See you when we come back to school after the New Year!
  • My grandma’s always wishing everyone who passes by a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! She’s way friendlier than I am.
  • I forgot to tell my sister Merry Christmas this year. We usually don’t talk much, but I thought I’d send her a holiday greeting to break the ice.

How to Reply to ‘Merry Christmas’

There is no one right way to respond to ‘Merry Christmas.’ However, you’ll likely want to return the sentiment of well wishes for the holidays to the person offering them to you.

You might reply with a simple, "Merry Christmas to you, too!" or "Thanks, you too!" Or you could also say, "Happy holidays."

Other Ways to Say ‘Merry Christmas’

  • Happy holidays
  • Seasons greetings
  • Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaian)
  • Feliz Navidad (Spanish)
  • Yuletide greetings
  • Happy Christmas (British)

Are you ready to learn more English phrases? Don’t forget to check out our Idioms blog!

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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